Facing Human Wrongs:
Navigating paradoxes and complexities
of social and global change.
Falling To Pieces
This forest walk invites you to reconsider the at times useful, but ultimately inaccurate, belief in the separation between our bodies and the broader metabolism from which we all emerge and to which we will all return.
This walk consists of 3 parts. You will walk for about 20 minutes or until you find a space where you can do the exercise in a safe way for you that is also considerate towards others. Then you will return. This should take about 50 minutes of your time.
Part A: Breathing
Walk for 20 minutes or so focusing on the sensation of breathing. Breathe in through your nose for 4 counts, pause for 4 counts, and exhale through your mouth for 4 counts. Pay attention to the expansion of your chest, the rise of your shoulders, the feeling of your diaphragm pushing against your belly and navel. Although it is common to think of air as “nothing”, it is a fluid, similar to water, with weight, texture, and odour. It can be cold, warm, hot, humid, or dry. It can feel fresh or stale. The air you breathe is composed of approximately 78 percent nitrogen and 21 percent oxygen. It also has small amounts of many other gases, such as carbon dioxide, neon, and hydrogen. Your body needs to take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide to maintain proper equilibrium within our cardiovascular system. On average, we inhale/exhale about 16 times per minute – over 23,000 breaths per day!
Over the course of your walk, don’t be discouraged or hard on yourself when you realize you are no longer being attentive to your breath – consciously returning back is as important as staying centred on your breath.
Part B: Exchanging
Now that you have spent some time witnessing your breath, experiencing the sensation of flow in and out of your body, and reminding yourself of the gas exchange occurring at the cellular level, look around and notice if there is a plant that catches your attention. Gaze gently in the direction of the plant and ask permission to approach. If you feel consent is given, get close to the plant. Sit and breathe with the plant. In your mind’s eye, picture the flow of fluid between your body and the plant. Remember that the oxygen that is released by the plant is the oxygen that is entering into your lungs, diffusing into your bloodstream, and being delivered to your cells where it is used to make energy, to keep you alive and whole. It is becoming a part of you. It is you. Sit with the plant and send it your gratitude.
Next, remaining in resonance with your plant companion, consider the insight offered by Andreas Weber (2017, p. 57) in his book, Matter and Desire: An erotic ecology:
Do you still remember your days in school when the biology teacher drew the so-called citric acid cycle on the board? The circle of biochemical reactions details the central “energy motor” of every cell. Nourishment – a little bit of sugar – is introduced into the cell, energy is released from it, and carbon dioxide is emitted. That’s it for the boring lesson, the learning objectives of classroom work. Of course, the teacher withheld the most important part (because his [sic] professors had also failed to show it to him [sic]). The emitted and exhaled carbon dioxide is not the exhaust of combusted “fuel”, as in a motor. The carbon atom does not come from the ingested nourishment. It comes from somewhere else, from the cell itself, from the cell’s own body. So metabolism means: I subsist on what becomes my body, and I exhale into the air what was my body. I am the grain of the field that died for me, and I die constantly and transform myself into what the plants inhale, such that my body becomes their new bodies. The organism is a closed being and at the same time matter flows through it. Matter drifts through the bodies of a vast array of organisms…the circle of life on Earth depends solely on the fact that we all share in the great body of matter and pass through one another reciprocally.
Exhale. Feel the stream of breath leave your mouth. The carbon that is leaving your body is a little bit of you. When you exhale, you are literally falling to pieces, releasing your material self back into circulation, to be enmeshed with your relations all around you. In many ways, our bodies are quite proficient at gathering, integrating, and releasing. In our journey towards decolonizing our minds/bodies, institutions, and societies, we will need to pay closer attention to which patterns of material and social metabolism need to be interrupted and which need to receive more intention to become imprinted at the subconscious level. If we are already experts at letting our bodies fall apart, so much so that we don’t often realize what is occurring, perhaps our loss of other perceived entitlements won’t be as difficult as we think. Take a few more moments to breathe with your plant. When you are ready, thank your plant for their time, attention, and oxygen, and begin the process of returning to your starting point.
Part C: Reflection
On your way back, feel yourself falling away. Think about the pieces of you that are constantly being left behind everywhere you go, 23,000 times per day (more or less). Hold space for the following questions:
- What images, sensations, and emotions accompany the realization that your body is falling to pieces?
- If we are in a constant state of ingesting and releasing matter, where does your body end and the outside world begin?
- If the misconception between the separation of our bodies and the external world is valid, what other myths of separation can you think of that are operating unchallenged in the modern world?
- Which harmful entitlements that are sanctioned by modernity are you struggling with or fearful of releasing?
Weber, A. (2017). Matter and desire: An erotic ecology. Chelsea Green Publishing.